Although much rarer, male breast cancer can be more complex and often presents at a more advanced stage. There are about 400 men diagnosed with male breast cancer each year in the UK, compared with 50,000 cases of breast cancer in women.
As with women, the single biggest risk factor for breast cancer in men is increasing age. Most cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 70. Other risk factors are high oestrogen levels, exposure to radiation, a family history or recognised breast cancer gene in the family, obesity, chronic liver conditions, and a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter's syndrome.
Professor Gordon Wishart comments: “Because the male breast area is usually quite small, there is a greater risk of a tumour spreading to other parts of the body, which is why it is beneficial to catch it as early as possible. The diagnosis and treatment of a male breast cancer patient is similar to that of a female and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy".
The most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a firm lump in the breast deep to the nipple. This is nearly always painless and other symptoms may include:
Oozing from the nipple (a discharge) that may be blood stained
Swelling of the breast
A sore (ulcer) in the skin of the breast
A nipple that is pulled into the breast (called nipple retraction)
Lumps under the arm
Find out more about the symptoms of male breast cancer>
The diagnostic techniques used for detecting breast cancer in men are much the same as for women. Clinical breast examination, ultrasound, mammography are all available at BreastHealth UK and are suitable for identifying breast cancer in men.
Most men diagnosed with breast cancer require mastectomy, often followed by radiotherapy to the chest wall area. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy may also be used following surgery. It should be noted that the exact type of treatment will depend on a number of tumour-related factors including the size of the tumour, the presence or hormone receptors, and whether the tumour has spread to the lymph nodes. As with female breast cancer, if the cancer is caught in the early stages, a cure may be possible. This is why early detection is important as once the cancer becomes more advanced, the prognosis and survival will be worse and long term cure may not be possible.
If you are worried you may have symptoms of breast cancer or would like further advice, please contact us or arrange an appointment. We can book you in quickly without the need for a GP referral and you will have your results quickly.
A male patient aged 50, contacted BreastHealth UK when he identified a lump just below his nipple; he said: “I have a busy working life and I just wanted to get it sorted out as soon as possible, I didn’t want to wait for a GP appointment and then wait again to be referred, it would have taken too long and I didn’t want it to play on my mind. BreastHealth UK organised a same day appointment with a qualified breast surgeon and I had a mammogram and an ultrasound later that day, as recommended by the consultant. I was very pleased with the speed of the service and the ease of access to qualified staff. For me, privacy and confidentiality were really important and I was dealt with in a very professional and sensitive way.” Fortunately for patient the lump was benign and he did not require any further investigation or treatment.